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My Take: Six things I don't want to hear after the Sandy Hook massacre
Ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee appeared to blame the Newtown massacre at least partly on the secularization of schools.
December 18th, 2012
12:58 PM ET

My Take: Six things I don't want to hear after the Sandy Hook massacre

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) – There are a lot of things I am sick of hearing after massacres such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Here are six of them:

1. “It was God’s will.”

There may or may not be a God, but if there is, I sure hope he (or she or it) does not go around raising up killers, plying them with semiautomatic weapons, goading them to target practice, encouraging them to plot mass killings and cheering them on as they shoot multiple bullets into screaming 6- and 7-year-old children. Much better to say there is no God or, as Abraham Lincoln did, “The Almighty has his own purposes,” than to flatter ourselves with knowing what those purposes are.

2. “Jesus called the children home.”

I don’t want to hear that Jesus needed 20 more kids in heaven on Friday that Madeleine Hsu (age 6) or Daniel Barden (age 7) were slain because Jesus couldn't wait to see them join his heavenly choir. Even the most fervent Christians I know want to live out their lives on Earth before going “home” to “glory.” The Hebrew Bible patriarchs rightly wanted long lives. Moses lived to be 120. Abraham was 175 when he died. Madeleine and Daniel deserved more than 6 or 7 years.

3. “After death, there is the resurrection.”

In the Jewish tradition, it is offensive to bring up the afterlife while in the presence of death. Death is tragic, and deaths such as these are unspeakably so. So now is the time for grief, not for pat answers to piercing questions. “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,” says the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, and now is not a time for laughing or dancing or talk of children raised from the dead.

4. “This was God’s judgment.”

After every hurricane or earthquake, someone steps up to a mic to say that “this was God’s judgment” on New Orleans for being too gay or the United States for being too secular. I’m not sure what judgment of God would provoke the killing of 27 innocent women and children, but I certainly don’t want to entertain any theorizing on the question right now. Let’s leave God’s judgment out of this one, OK? Especially if we want to continue to believe God's judgments are "true and righteous altogether" (Psalms 19:9).

5. “This happened because America is too secular.”

Unlike those of us who are shaking their heads trying to figure out what transpired in Newtown, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an evangelical icon, apparently has it all figured out. We don’t need fewer guns in the hands of killers, he said Friday on Fox News, we need more God in our public schools.

“Should we be so surprised that schools have become such a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability,” Huckabee said in an astonishing flight of theological and sociological fancy.

Just keep plying people like the killer with Glocks and Sig Sauers. As long as we force Jewish and Buddhist Americans to say Christian prayers, then the violence will magically go away. The logic here is convoluted to the point of absent, leaving me wondering whether what passes for "leadership" in America can sink any lower.

6. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

If ever there has been a more idiotic political slogan, I have yet to hear it. The logical fallacy here is imagining that people are killed either by people or by guns. Come again? Obviously, guns do not kill people on their own. But people do not shoot bullets into people without guns. At Sandy Hook and Aurora and Columbine, people with guns killed people. This is a fact. To pretend it away with slogans is illogical and revolting.

The question now is: Are those of us who have not yet been killed by guns going to allow these massacres to continue unimpeded? Are Americans that callous? Is life here so cheap? I have read the Second Amendment, and I find no mention there of any right to possess any gun more advanced than an 18th-century musket? Do I really have the right to bear a nuclear weapon? Or a rocket-propelled grenade? Then why in God’s name would any U.S. civilian have the right (or the need) to bear a .223-caliber assault rifle made by Bushmaster?

If you believe in a God who is all powerful and all good, then covering up for the Almighty at a time like this is in my view deeply unfaithful. Today is a day to shake your fist at heaven and demand answers, and then to shake it harder when no answers are forthcoming. To do anything else is in my view to diminish the idea of God, and to cheapen faith in the process.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Crime • God • Mike Huckabee • United States • Violence

soundoff (5,447 Responses)
  1. Gerry

    Thanks very much for a terrific and thoughtful piece. It is a nice addition to Peter Bergen's provocative comparison of American deaths from terrorism and those from guns.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  2. Chad

    Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
    If ever there has been a more idiotic political slogan, I have yet to hear it. The logical fallacy here is imagining that people are killed either by people or by guns. Come again? Obviously, guns do not kill people on their own. But people do not sh.oot bullets into people without guns. At Sandy Hook and Aurora and Columbine, people with guns killed people. This is a fact. To pretend it away with slogans is illogical and revolting.

    =>the fallacy is in thinking that the availability or existence of guns is the problem, that's where your atheistic commitment to trashing this Christian moral core of this country gets tripped up by logic and common sense.

    Now, I'm all for restricting automatic weapons, and limiting the magazine size, however that is not going to solve the problem.
    Guns have been around for hundreds of years. Columbine/Sandy Hook sho.oters carried multiple guns and reloaded. If you eliminate handgun sales, and restrict all rifles to bolt action 6 shot magazines, well, you have NOT solved the problem. Multiple rifles will be carried and multiple magazines.

    The real problem is you Prothero.
    you and your ilk.
    atheism and this continuous assault on morality is the problem.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Rational Humanist

      Spoken like a truly crazy fucktard.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Answer

      Chad is that 100% fvcktard.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Bill

      @Rational Humanist Spoken like a complete a$$.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • zod

      @Chad and Bill:
      two t urds in the same bowl.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Chad

      I guess the biggest thing that I dont understand about anti-theists, is their belief that simply calling someone a name complete refutes an argument.

      you are aware that attacking the person means you dont have any response to the argument itself?

      December 18, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm afraid your assertions are correct, "zod". "Chad" and "Bill" are, in fact, two turds in the same bowl.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • Pete

      Chad, people have spent months showing you why your arguments are wrong and you ignore them and then come back the next day with the same arguments. At some point it makes sense to ignore and insult you because you aren't worth the time.

      December 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  3. Go Figure

    The best one I heard was when they were interviewing the preacher for the lone girl that survived in the one class room. He said it was devine intervention that she lived. OK, so where was the devine intervention for the rest of the kids in the classroom?!?!

    December 18, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  4. Pat

    There is no "god," so grow up and get over it!

    December 18, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  5. bobm

    Mr Prothero,

    Thankfully you live in a county that allows for freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment and protects other to practice their religion.

    I am amazed that you did not say anything about the numerous religion leaders at the memorial service on Sunday. I get the impression their words and religious saying were acceptable to you.

    Did you forget about the politicizing of the shooting by politicians on the Sunday talk shows or the President during his speech at the memorial service or did you leave that out intentionally? You do not believe that politicizing the shootings at the memorial service for the victims families is revolting?

    I will ask your question about drunk driving and the killing of 10,000 people each year. The question now is: Are those of us who have not yet been killed by cars going to allow these massacres to continue unimpeded? Are Americans that callous? Is life here so cheap? I have read the Bill of Rights many times and I do not find any mention there of the right to drink and drive. I almost forgot, driving is a privilege not a right. Where is your outrage for these people? Do cars kill people or do drunk drivers kill people? Is this logic revolting to you?

    Quite obvious which way you vote in elections.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  6. KRHODES

    1. “It was God’s will.”
    NO
    2. “Jesus called the children home.”
    No
    3. “After death, there is the resurrection.”
    Yes
    4. “This was God’s judgment.”
    No
    5. “This happened because America is too secular.”
    Yes
    6. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
    Yes

    December 18, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • buck

      m0r0n

      December 18, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  7. Eric

    6 people I don't want to hear from after an event like this:

    1. Politicians
    2. Media "pundits"
    3. Professors
    4. Celebrities
    5. News Anchors
    6. Newspaper Editors

    December 18, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Rational Humanist

      I like your list, Eric.

      I, for one, would prefer direct involvement in evaluating, discussing, and implementing any needed reforms of any type, rather than have a bunch of blathering idiots tell me what to think, but, as one of the 99 percent, I have no voice from which to protest with any effectiveness to stop the nonsense of those in your list.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • David

      HOW TRUE!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  8. TomGI

    Mike Huckabee becomes the #1 candidate for dumb a55 for 2012.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  9. Wayne

    Thank you, Stephen. It is always an embarrassment to know that there are people who will say, and who believe, any of these six things.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  10. Jvega

    I agreed with most of the columnist comment.Religion faith and views should be kept out of the school system and everyone should remember well to remember Jesus words: "give caesar what is caesar's and god what is god's" When it comes to teach and instruct God's will to our children (to Christians,Jews,Muslims.. etc) the Hebrew scriptures made clear that responsibility was and is on the parents.History shows how Christians countries have kill each other on wars,crusades or simply by sharing a different biblical opinion on a particular subject, they forgot our Lord Jesus admonishment "Put away your sword," Jesus told him. "Those who use the sword will die by the sword" (Matthew 26:52) Regarding Mr. Lanza according to news sources was a disturbed or mentally ill person.Those blaming the mother..should not bring a quick judgment upon her..because if you have your own kids the only thing you could do is hope they will not follow Mr. Lanza's path and become the latest news.Do yourself a favor pray,keep praying for your own kids.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Rational Humanist

      Praying does nothing but make you feel like you did something real instead of imaginary.

      Try real-world action and stop with the imaginary wish-fulfillment.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  11. LouAZ

    The CNN headline "Taken far too soon" was very onerous to me. This implies their death would be somehow more acceptable if they lived longer. How much longer ? What NONSENSE. The only thing taken by intent was the lives of 27 people but a wacko that was armed with a semi auto rifle that had a big clip and lots more clips to change.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  12. Paul

    "6. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
    If ever there has been a more idiotic political slogan, I have yet to hear it. "

    Let me reply in the words of an American original: "I know you are, but what am I?"
    Stephen, a gun, like a knife, a car, a hammer, has no will of its own. You can ban guns all you want. 168 died in OKC in 1995, without anyone firing a shot. Should we ban the fertilizer and diesel fuel that killed them? Near 3000 died on 9/11, without anyone firing a shot. Should we ban box cutters and all commercial airline flights?
    It's bad enough that our inactivity has made us a nation so soft and obese we haven't the strength to fight back. It's bad enough that traditional male roles have been riduculed and vilified to the point that assertion and self-defense are viewed as brutish and even liable to prosecution. The cherry on top for those who dream of invasion is to make a populace nearly defenseless into one totally defenseless. Obama wanted to fundamentally transform America. Unfortunately, he keeps his promises. Should we learn Arabic...or Chinese?

    December 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  13. Shirley

    This tragic was the devil doing not god. In the bible it talk about job and the devil ask god could he destroy job but god say yes but don't touch his life. People need to under stand that god allow tragic to enter our life for many reason.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • JJ

      Shut the fuck up you delusional bitch.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • KevininAtlanta

      God allowed this to happen for a reason?!?!

      What possible reason could there be to slaughter 26 innocent women and school children!? I refuse to worship any god that allows such carnage to happen for the sole purpose of proving a point!

      December 18, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  14. Swarna

    Yeah..If all parents are going to forgive and give messages like this, nothing will change. Not the gun laws or the mental healthcare. Everyone will go on comfortably with their lives. When parents are not angry, what change can our rantings bring about?!! So..its good to forgive..but please dont be too nice. You might lose other children too in another tragedy and forgive another monster and accept everything as God's will?? No...not acceptable. Ask...Demand Justice. Please...for the sake of our Children. Let things change for good.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  15. Korey Gerow

    PARENTS- TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL- Separation of church and state for good reason! GOD has NOTHING to do with this whatsoever!! PUBLIC SCHOOLS should not teach YOUR children values and morals– thats YOUR JOB!! So stop crying that "god" isn't allowed in schools–such a LAME BS EXCUSE!! and we ALLL know it! Stop fooling yourselves. If you want to shoot at something go get a bow and arrow. No need for GUNs whatsoever in the 21st century. The Republican party will continue to loose election after election. GOP = Whig Party. :)))

    December 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • I Am God

      I agree.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  16. Andrew

    Yes, shake your fist at God and demand answers. You may have a to wait a few days but Im sure hell get back to you with an answer, Stephen.

    What happend at Sandy Hook was a travesty and was COMPLETELY horrific, but it doesnt help to use it as an opportunity to attack God or religion, and ENCOURAGE others to do so! You could look at any of the past horrors such as the Holocaust for instance and wonder why God let that happen. Or how about you question why God allowed his only son to be flogged and nailed to a cross?

    Im honestly sick and tired of people whining and complaining about God and why he allows these things to happen instead of somberly and genuinely praying for the families of the victims and hoping that they find consolation and peace which only God can provide.

    Everyone reading this, pray for the victims families and ask God to give them strength to be able to bear the pain of the loss. Its unimaginable and my mind can not even go to what this must feel like for them ......

    December 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  17. Pablo

    Who is god and where is he hiding? I tried to talk to him for the first 30 years of my life and never heard a peep.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  18. barry

    This writer needs to read the BIBLE more because GOD does not I repeat does not cause these problems , man does. GOD is just and right he gave all of us to choose right and wrong. I know it was wrong for these kids to be killed. But I know that GOD is still in control.

    December 18, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Rational Humanist

      If your fake god is in control then everything, including evil, is his fault. You cannot have it both ways.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Juanita

      That's pretty sick reasoning; God is in control and he ALLOWS someone to slaughter 20 kids. Really?

      December 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Hey! You!

      Of what?

      December 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Observer

      "But I know that GOD is still in control."

      We saw. Twenty dead children.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • apostate

      try again bible boy.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • anniem

      Then in my opinion, if god truly exists, he needs to get his butt back down here on earth and clean up this mess. That "free will" s**t isn't working very well...

      December 18, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  19. Silence is not Golden

    I may not like things some people talk about.

    It is more important to me that people have the right to talk.

    December 18, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  20. Hey! You!

    If God allowed this to happen because we don't allow prayer in public schools, then God allowed it out of spite?

    December 18, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.